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Many In Roseburg Already Settled On Gun Debate

Shortly after the shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, President Barack Obama called for renewed debate over gun control legislation.

The president pinned the lack of movement on gun control squarely on the National Rifle Association’s lobbying arm.

“They know how to stir up fear, they know how to stir up their base, they know how to raise money, they know how to scare politicians, they know how to organize campaigns,” the president said. 

Obama then promised to “politicize” the UCC shooting in order to begin moving the gun control debate. 

Those comments have angered many in Roseburg, a town of more than 21,000, where support for the president is low, and many are gun-rights supporters.  

“Gun sales have gone through the roof since he started talking,” said gun dealer Candi Kinney. “(The President) is our best salesman.”

Gun Shop Contacted By ATF

Kinney is a co-owner of Roseburg Gun Shop, located just off of Rifle Range Street on the east side of town.

ATF officers contacted the Roseburg Gun Shop immediately after the shooting. The federal officers were investigating a background check on one of the guns, purchased at Roseburg Gun Shop, in possession of the shooter, 26-year-old Chris Harper-Mercer. 

“It’s a federal form you have to fill out, and then we run it through the state police,” Kinney said. “Then they basically say yes or no whether or not you can have a gun.” 

Asked if Harper-Mercer purchased a gun from her shop, Kinney declined to answer. 

“I’m not going to state yes or no,” she said. “Since this is the first time something like this has happened, I don’t want to add any stress by saying, ‘Hey we did this’ or ‘We didn’t do this.’ So, I just wont say yes or no.”

Yet, even if it’s revealed later that one or more guns involved in the shooting were purchased at the Roseburg Gun Shop, Kinney said she would feel no guilt. 

“Any of our firearms can end up in a crime,” Kinney said. “And they have. We have found out in the past that our firearms [were used] in different crimes. It is not our fault. We didn’t tell that person to go do such and such. We didn’t tell that person to go sell it to some druggie — it’ not our fault. We legally sold the firearm.”

Law enforcement officials say the UCC shooter purchased the guns legally. For Kinney, who submits background checks regularly, that fact shows laws won’t protect people from mass shooters. Instead she thinks protection would come from more people owning guns. 

“I do believe that if we can have the teachers go through gun education, and lock up the guns, that’s fine. Lock them up in the desk so the little kids don’t get them, then maybe our schools will be safer,” she said.

Owner’s Views Similar To Wider Community

Many in the community – including Sheriff John Hanlin – have voiced their opposition to new gun control measures after mass shootings. Many in Roseburg look at guns as a tool, one that can be used for good — or one that can be used for evil.

Don Sheldon is a police officer and a gun-rights supporter who thinks the debate is the start of an attempt to round up guns. Sheldon is most concerned the government will look to ban assault weapons. He said those types of weapons are needed for jobs like “predator control.” 

“[Predators like] coyotes, small game hunting, rabbits, these prairie dog critters,” which can dig holes that fell cattle, Sheldon said. “You know a 30-round magazine versus a five-round magazine, it makes sense, you know. So you’re not reloading all the time and you can help control predators.”

Even non-gun owners in Roseburg like Troy Davidson said the debate over guns has no place in the aftermath of the UCC shooting. Davidson works with young adults, some of whom were on the campus when the shooting took place. 

Davidson explained he moved to Roseburg to work with young adults who have substance abuse problems. 

“I came here from Hawaii as an African American to Roseburg,” he told OPB’s Weekend Edition. “And we don’t want to race-bait, or we don’t want to gun debate this. We want to heal our community that’s hurting. So, when you think of Roseburg, send peace and healing, and not controversy.”

Copyright 2015 Oregon Public Broadcasting